BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Things are starting to look up for the Red Giants in their first full season under the leadership of association president Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin. Following a poor start to the season with five matches without a win, a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind win over Klang Valley rivals Kuala Lumpur on matchday six of the Super League ushered in a turnaround in their performance; two wins and one draw.
Their recent FA Cup exit following a shock 2-1 defeat to Felda United at home took the wind out of their sails somewhat, but at least the worst seems to be over. Selangor are now fourth in the league standings, with 13 rounds remaining in the competition.
Met by Goal following their 1-1 league draw against Perak last Friday, secretary-general Johan Kamal Hamidon admitted relief in the team's ability to turn their performance around, allowing the board to focus more on the business and marketing side of the club.
"It has been good. I see now why it is important [for Malaysian clubs] to win, because just one defeat can undo all the good that you've done. But we've also learnt how to adapt to winning, losing or drawing. When we win, we try to leverage on it as much as possible, trying to get the fans excited.
"We've secured around 10,000 members this year through the team card drive, and fans have appreciated the benefits that come with the membership. We're still working on getting more partners on board while we've had positive results with the 20 partners we've brought on so far. We want to get as many fans to sign up, while getting as much value as possible for them. In the meantime, the data we've collected from them has helped us understand them and inform our decisions better.
"We can now also focus more on growing together with our business partners. Take our partnership with Vizione (construction firm Vizione Holdings Berhad), we both want each other to do well and they have helped us out with minor repairs for the stadium, as well as by investing RM1 million to upgrade our training ground. Similarly with Avisena Specialist Hospital (Selangor's official healthcare partner), they have the confidence in us to bring their brand to the next level, and that was why they opted to partner with us.
"Having very reputable brands such as Avisena and Vizione on board to provide basic requirements such as a good training ground, facilities, medical and physiotherapy is important foundation for us. We will see the benefits.
"I've always looked at the club as a start-up, even though we have a long history behind us, there are a lot of aspects that need to be revamped and transformed. We (the current Tengku Amir administration) are starting from zero. We're targeting even bigger brands to join us, while retaining the brands that are already on board," explained the former student-athlete.
But while they are aiming to expand their business capabilities, the Red Giants want to grow their fanbase and talent pool locally.
Asked whether Selangor are interested in signing another Indonesian or Southeast Asian player in the hopes of attracting fans from outside the country as the outfit have done in the past, Johan responded that any ASEAN players signed by the outfit will be done solely on the basis of their playing abilities.
Johan Kamal Hamidon. Photo by Zulhilmi Zainal
"While having a prominent ASEAN player will be a huge advantage, we are not PKNS FC," said the 32-year old club official bluntly. "There are 6 million Selangoreans; a huge population. Having foreign fans is a bonus, but it shouldn't be our focus. As long as the team plays exciting football and perform well, as long as we engage and take care of the fans, run the club professionally, the [local] fans will come. Tapping into this market is more important.
"We are also not making signing mixed-heritage players as one of our strategies. Our scouting capacity is still in its infancy because hiring the right people costs a lot of money. Our local players have been doing quite well and we need to build on this. As long as they are good, there will be no need for foreigners or players with mixed-heritage," he explained.
Now that things have picked up for the Red Giants, their fans will be glad to know that according to Johan, around 80 percent of their current squad members are on contracts that extend past this season.
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